Posted on September 28, 2022

Indigenous Population Hits 1.8M, Growing at Twice Rate of Non-indigenous Canadians: 2021 Census

Peter Zimonjic, CBC, September 21, 2022

The number of people identifying as Indigenous in Canada grew almost twice as fast as the non-Indigenous population and now stands at 1.8 million — about five per cent of the population — according to newly released census data.

From 2016 to 2021, the number of people in Canada identifying as Indigenous grew by 9.4 per cent. The non-Indigenous population grew by just 5.3 per cent over the same period.

While that growth rate is high, it’s almost half the growth rate for the population that identified as Indigenous between 2011 and 2016, which was 18.9 per cent.

The 2021 census attributed that faster growth rate to a higher birth rate and changes over time in how census questions are answered.

“In general, respondents have become more likely to identify as Indigenous over time,” the census said.

“The reasons people are more likely to identify as Indigenous may be related to social factors and external factors, such as changes to legislation or court rulings.”

Statistics Canada said that because of difficulties in collecting census data on First Nations and other Indigenous communities, some caution should be exercised in comparing census years.

The census also found that the Indigenous population is also younger than the non-Indigenous population.

Just over one in six Indigenous people aged 15 to 64 — or 17.2 per cent of working-age Indigenous people — were 55 to 64 years of age, while the same cohort made up 22 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.

“The average age of Indigenous people was 33.6 years in 2021, compared with 41.8 years for the non-Indigenous population,” the census said.

The Inuit were the youngest of the three Indigenous population groups, with an average age of 28.9 years. First Nations people reported an average age of 32.5 years while Métis peoples reported an average age of 35.9.

Indigenous populations also have a greater percentage of children than the average. Kids age 14 and under accounted for 25.4 per cent of the Indigenous population, while children made up just 16 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.

Children in foster care

The 2021 census also found that 3.2 per cent of Indigenous children in Canada were in foster care, compared to just 0.2 per cent of non-Indigenous children in Canada.

Indigenous children accounted for more than half of all children in foster care, at 53.8 per cent, despite representing only 7.7 per cent of children 14 and under in Canada.

Despite the federal government’s efforts to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in foster care, the number of Indigenous children in foster care remains almost unchanged since 2016.

Of the 459,210 Indigenous children aged 14 and under, 14.2 per cent lived with at least one grandparent, compared with just 8.9 per cent of non-Indigenous children. More than one third, or 35.8 per cent, of Indigenous children lived in a single-parent household, compared to 56 per cent who lived in a two-parent household.

The number of Indigenous people living in housing that was in need of major repairs was almost three times higher in 2021 than it was for non-Indigenous Canadians, although it has fallen slightly since the 2016 census.